Monday, January 22, 2024
Christina Palmer, PhD, MS, CGC, has played an important role in the genetic counseling realm in recent years as editor-in-chief of the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s Journal of Genetic Counseling (JOGC), where she made an impact through DEIJ, her mentorship of student researchers, her own research submissions and in many other ways. Read on to learn about her journey and advice for those submitting their research project to a journal.
You recently rolled off your position with the Journal of Genetic Counseling. Can you share where your career journey is taking you next?
CP: My career journey has been an interesting and wonderful mix of intention and serendipity. I did have as one of my career goals to be the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Genetic Counseling, and I found that to be extremely rewarding work. Now I think it is serendipity’s turn to weigh in on my career journey.
For those who may be unfamiliar, what benefits does this journal bring the genetic counseling profession?
CP: Have you ever wondered: Does including a patient letter facilitate cascade genetic testing? Do standardized patients facilitate genetic counseling student training? Do the activities of genetic counselors in specialty X vary across institutions and if so, why? Do video pre-test genetic counseling sessions produce the same genetic testing decisions as in-person pre-test genetic counseling sessions? Do genetic counselors in patient-facing roles experience burn-out differently from genetic counselors in non-patient-facing roles? What factors explain genetic counseling students’ experience with imposter syndrome? Do genetic counselors from underrepresented groups experience their careers the same or differently from genetic counselors from the majority group?
Well, a huge benefit of the journal is the dissemination of this kind of research. JOGC currently is the only peer-reviewed, academic journal to focus on publishing genetic counseling-relevant research. This research is important for building up the knowledge base of the discipline and practice of genetic counseling.
What is the best advice you’ve received or given in regards to submitting an article to a journal?
CP: Publication takes perseverance. I learned this early on in my career in terms of receiving rejections or requests for revisions. A tip I received from an established researcher is that a rejection from one journal does not necessarily mean the research should not be published. It could mean that the research is not a good fit for that particular journal. There are many journals out there, and in a large number of cases it is a matter of matching your article’s topic with a journal’s audience and current interests. Given this reality, this particular established researcher routinely would identify and rank order four to six journals that their manuscript could be submitted to in order to minimize the amount of time between rejection from one journal to submission to the next journal on the list.
Can you share the background and process for incorporating DEIJ into the journal’s operations? What have been the results?
CP: In 2021, we established a working group made up of some editorial board members and a liaison from the NSGC J.E.D.I. Taskforce to incorporate J.E.D.I into the journal’s operations. We met biweekly for several months to craft a J.E.D.I statement for the journal to be published on the journal’s website. The final statement incorporated feedback from many stakeholders including the entire editorial board, NSGC J.E.D.I. Taskforce, and MGPN (Minority Genetics Professionals Network). There are several areas in which this statement facilitated changes in journal operations. As one example, the statement addresses valuing scholarship through a framework that includes a DEI lens. One action taken by the journal to promote this was to update the author guidelines to provide guidance to authors and reviewers regarding the use of inclusive language in manuscripts. As another example, the statement addresses inclusion of diverse identities in all journal activities. Two ways in which the journal promotes this is through increases to the size of the editorial board structure so that more individuals can participate in journal activities, and through a Campaign for Reviewers that encourages individuals who may have been underrepresented to join the reviewer pool. The journal’s J.E.D.I statement has proven to be an important guide for identifying areas in which journal operations can be enhanced to foster diversity, equity, inclusion and justice — and likely will continue to be important guide for future initiatives.
What has been a favorite research project you’ve undertaken?
CP: I have enjoyed all of my research projects, probably for different reasons. But in general what I love about research is that it facilitates learning (my learning and other people’s learning), it revs up people’s creative juices and problem-solving skills, it facilitates relationships with collaborators and participants, and it can make a difference in people’s lives, in healthcare systems, in education, etc. Recently I have become more involved with student-driven research and I have really enjoyed learning their perspectives on important topics to address and witnessing the growth in their research skills.
What advice do you have for early-career genetic counselors hoping to take a research-focused approach?
CP: I have three pieces of advice. First, identify a seasoned researcher to be your mentor. There are institutional, administrative, operational, financial and topic expertise aspects of research that an early-career genetic counselor may need to learn about. A mentor can help the early career researcher navigate and build expertise in some of these areas. Second, participate in a research collaboration. Most research is a team effort, and this is wonderful because it means you do not need to be an expert in everything yet offers opportunities for cross-learning, networking, and research productivity. Third, get involved with genetic counseling student-driven research by being on a thesis/capstone committee. This is an opportunity to continue to hone your research skills, and contribute to the growth of the genetic counseling student, and to the growth of the academic discipline of genetic counseling.
What is one hope you have for the genetic counseling profession in the short-term?
CP: My short-term hope for the genetic counseling profession is that the energy that is going into building up a genetic counseling-related research infrastructure is successful in firmly establishing genetic counseling as an academic discipline.
About Dr. Palmer
Christina Palmer, PhD, MS, CGC, is a licensed genetic counselor and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. She served as editor-in-chief for the Journal of Genetic Counseling 2018–2023 and is the founding director of the UCLA genetic counseling graduate program.
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